It's only natural that many investors, especially those who are new to the game, prefer to buy shares in 'sexy' stocks with a good story, even if those businesses lose money. But as Peter Lynch said in One Up On Wall Street, 'Long shots almost never pay off.'
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Ball (NYSE:BLL), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
Ball's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
If you believe that markets are even vaguely efficient, then over the long term you'd expect a company's share price to follow its earnings per share (EPS). That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. As a tree reaches steadily for the sky, Ball's EPS has grown 23% each year, compound, over three years. As a general rule, we'd say that if a company can keep up that sort of growth, shareholders will be smiling.
I like to see top-line growth as an indication that growth is sustainable, and I look for a high earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margin to point to a competitive moat (though some companies with low margins also have moats). Ball reported flat revenue and EBIT margins over the last year. That's not a major concern but nor does it point to the long term growth we like to see.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.
The trick, as an investor, is to find companies that are going to perform well in the future, not just in the past. To that end, right now and today, you can check our visualization of consensus analyst forecasts for future Ball EPS 100% free.
Are Ball Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a US$21b company like Ball. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. Indeed, they have a glittering mountain of wealth invested in it, currently valued at US$229m. This suggests to me that leadership will be very mindful of shareholders' interests when making decisions!
Is Ball Worth Keeping An Eye On?
Given my belief that share price follows earnings per share you can easily imagine how I feel about Ball's strong EPS growth. Further, the high level of insider buying impresses me, and suggests that I'm not the only one who appreciates the EPS growth. So this is very likely the kind of business that I like to spend time researching, with a view to discerning its true value. Of course, identifying quality businesses is only half the battle; investors need to know whether the stock is undervalued. So you might want to consider this free discounted cashflow valuation of Ball.
Of course, you can do well (sometimes) buying stocks that are not growing earnings and do not have insiders buying shares. But as a growth investor I always like to check out companies that do have those features. You can access a free list of them here.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.
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